TIFF 2020: ‘American Utopia’ is so weird it’s perfect for this moment »


“It seems to me that in creating something — a song, a show, a blog post, a meal, a dance — a vision comes together, intuitively, gradually, bit by bit, little by little, and we don’t always know the totality of what we’ve made until we can actually see, hear and taste it,” wrote David Byrne in a statement he launched in 2019 when “American Utopia” opened on Broadway.

That imaginative and prescient performed out within the movie directed by Spike Lee that paperwork the Broadway run, based mostly on Byrne’s album and tour, of the identical title, which premiered on the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday evening in screenings at three waterfront places throughout downtown Toronto and on-line at Bell Digital Cinema.

Byrne’s imaginative and prescient was of musicians singing, taking part in devices and shifting round in an empty house on stage, untethered from mics, energy cords and gear. Attending the screening, tethered as I used to be to my automotive and bubble on the RBC Lakeside Drive-In, was like going to an everyday previous drive-in however with perks.

There was a reside music stage subsequent to the large display to maintain you entertained as partrons waited for the movie to start. Popcorn was delivered to your automotive and plenty of, many attendants had been round serving to in case you weren’t positive the place you had been going — guiding you into your spot and checking in case you wanted something. Not to say free goodies.

Of course some had paranoia about killing their automotive battery, so they obsessively turned their automotive on and off, blinding everybody with their headlights. (TIFF had professionals available to cope with this.) But that’s actually simply the equal of the particular person two rows in entrance of you blinding everybody with their cellphone periodically. It’s all part of the expertise.

On Day 1 of the fest, a lot has been mentioned and written about how TIFF simply isn’t the identical this 12 months. It’s not, however the identical parts are there. I drove the crimson carpet, there was a reside look from a forged member and a (taped) message from the filmmakers.

The forged member who appeared earlier than the screening was Toronto-raised Broadway percussionist Jacquelene Acevedo who quarantined in Toronto for two weeks so she may attend the premiere.

“I knew that as a Canadian, because of my history, and how much this place has given me, it’s like — I have to come back. I can’t not… I’m in a Spike Lee joint with all my buddies up there, with David Byrne,” she informed The Canadian Press, hours after her quarantine lifted.

The former “Talking Heads” frontman included classics like “This Must Be The Place,” and “Once in a Lifetime” each taking over new that means in our stay-at-home, same-as-it-ever-was pandemic existence.

I imply, 2020 is weird sufficient, David Byrne is weird sufficient, however right here I used to be looking at a film display by means of a unclean windshield, throughout a downtown car parking zone, watching an viewers of what appeared to be principally Boomers rocking-out to “Burning Down the House,” within the backside of the body because it was carried out onstage.

But on second thought, perhaps Byrne and “American Utopia,” are simply the perfect quantity of weird and visionary to completely encapsulate this moment in time.



The present ends with a canopy of Janelle Monáe’s 2015 protest track “Hell You Talmbout,” which implores listeners to say the names of Black individuals who have died in encounters with the police or racial violence. It’s easy however efficient.

“It’s a protest song, but I also see it being about possibility. The song is about the possibility of change,” he tells the viewers within the movie.

Simple parts employed to most impact is a theme that runs all through this present; performers wearing easy gray fits with naked toes, pleased smiles, easy choreography and easy harmonies, synchronized, so that everybody is particular person but the identical, shifting to the identical beat.

Maybe this is what utopia appears like.

With information from The Canadian Press


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